An award-winning architect and founder of HKA | Hermann Kamte & Associates, Kamte describes himself as ‘a funny and amazing guy’ with a terrible singing voice
Cameroonian architect Hermann Kamte on his favourite things
At only 26 years old, Kamte already has a string of accolades to his name, including receiving a WAFX Prize in 2017 at the World Architecture Festival for his Lagos’ Wooden Tower and being chosen to speak at Architecture ZA in Pretoria this year. But for the young entrepreneur, it’s not about the prestige, but what his work can do to make the world a better place.
‘Being able to offer a service to the community is what drives my passion for architecture,’ he says, adding that growing up in Cameroon made him realise that he needed to work to improve Africa’s future. ‘For too long, Africa has solved its problems in a state of emergency and we know today that this does not work. I believe in preventative architecture: we no longer want spontaneous cities, but adaptive ones that anticipate our needs by providing maximum comfort with minimum damage to the environment. We want smart cities.’
After earning his Masters in Architecture with distinction at EAMAU in Togo in 2016, Kamte set up HKA in Yaoundé, Cameroon, the following year. ‘I like to create projects that are more beautiful, creative, innovative, sustainable, ecological and smarter than before,’ he says. ‘My aim is to give African architecture back its magic – I want to make people smile, I want to make people happy,
I want to make people dream!’
1. Wood This is my favourite material to work with and I consider it to be the fingerprint of Mother Nature in artificial buildings. As an alternative to unsustainable building materials, wood has a great role to play in shaping a better world, affordable housing and a greater quality of life.
2. Imhotep, Confucius and Steve Jobs These would be my dream dinner-party guests, as well as Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Sun Tzu and Beethoven. I would invite all the great inventors, philosophers and thinkers of past ages to dine with the young generation of our time and speak about creativity, life and leadership.
3. The National Museum of Togo, Lome The first time I visited this museum as a student, I was overcome with emotion.
It’s a beautiful space with a small collection and a powerful message, and I chose it as my case study for my Bachelors degree.
4. Lagos’ Wooden Tower Although this is considered to be my most famous project, I am no more proud of it than any of my others. I love all my creations with the same intensity because they are part of me, and each was born in response to a very specific challenge and offers a unique solution.
5. National Geographic’s Megastructures I remember watching this TV show as a child and loved seeing what man could do with some sand, pebbles and a little bit of ingenuity. It helped fuel my dream of becoming an architect one day.
6. Yaoundé, Cameroon This is my home and where my firm is. Everything seems possible for me here. Even though I travel extensively and consider myself a citizen of the world, in Yaoundé, I get a strong feeling that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
7. My Cameroonian heritage Heritage is of great importance to me and I’m known for including cultural touches in all my work. I believe in the power of architecture to give value to our cultural heritage across the world. Every place has a story to tell, and it is the job of the architect to interpret and convey this to society. In this way, I believe that architects are creators of culture.
(from top) Lips bench by HKA; Lagos’ Wooden Tower; Yaoundé’s Town Hall; Pyramid of Djoser in Egypt designed by Imhotep; statue of Confucius in Thailand.